Having sold over three million tickets in concerts that have taken place in 35 countries, The Australian Pink Floyd Show is rightfully hailed as one of the most in demand touring entities currently operating, The Times described them as “The Gold Standard”. This act is so good they were even engaged by David Gilmour to perform at his 50th birthday celebration!
Live dates are booked up for the foreseeable future, and the massive “Exposed In the Light” tour for 2012 is on sale, following the success of the sold out March 2011 tour; the band are set to build on the enormous success they have already enjoyed. Factor in a live show that has been radically reworked for the next phase of the band’s career and it’s clear why confidence is high. The Daily Mirror said this year, “This bunch are the kings of the genre”.
The band has spent a long time getting to this level; the years have been invested in getting things right: the sound, the feel, the experience. Whilst the Daily Telegraph rightly described them as being at “the top of the tribute band tree”, the journey has been a long one and began in 1988 in Adelaide. Lee Smith, a local guitarist obsessed with Pink Floyd, and needing to augment his band [featuring drummer Grant Ross and bassist Trevor Turton] placed an ad in Allan’s Music store. It read: “Vocalist and Keyboardist required for band. Professional attitude expected. We only play Pink Floyd”. Steve Mac and Jason Sawford each saw the ad and soon the now five-piece band commenced regular weekly practice. Whilst learning and practicing the songs they constantly referred to Lee’s extensive collection of Pink Floyd albums and bootleg recordings. They also started to create the sounds necessary to perform Pink Floyd correctly, and this became, and still is, one of the most important aspects of the band.
The first live show was performed to a select group of family and friends – including Richard Guest and Greg ‘Bear’ Sutton, both of whom would serve time in the band’s road crew. Having settled on the name ‘Think Floyd’, the quintet soon secured their first paying gig at the Alma Hotel. More gigs followed – the band banking $600AU for a show at the Tivoli witnessed by Colin Wilson who would later join the band. Though the reaction was positive, it seemed hard to find a regular audience, and the line-up drifted apart, until 1992 saw a refocusing and a redoubling of efforts.
Peter Whitely replaced Trevor Turton and the band aimed for bigger and better, often using a quadraphonic sound system that they ended up lugging to venues themselves. ‘92 saw the band back on track, but also their first big break. On a trip to the UK to visit family, Steve Mac made contact with the publishers of ’Brain Damage’ magazine, the biggest Pink Floyd fanzine at that time. Glenn Povey, the owner of the magazine was planning a Pink Floyd fan convention at Wembley in August 93, and decided that ‘Think Floyd’ should perform.
In order to raise money for the trip, the band began gigging furiously in Australia, clocking up serious miles but honing what they did ever more. Colin Wilson was drafted in to replace Peter Whitely who could not make the trip to the UK. The five band members plus long time ‘roadies’ Richard Guest and ‘Bear’ Sutton, boarded their BA flight to Heathrow on August 8, 1993. Upon arrival, British customs impounded all their equipment! Not a good start but everything was back on track for the warm up show on Friday 13th… The band by this time had changed their name to ‘The Australian Pink Floyd Show’.
At the convention TAPFS put on a three hour spectacular that is talked about to this day. Glenn Povey was so enthused that he started booking the band more shows, and would continue to do so for three years. ‘93 had been an incredible year but it ended with the departure of homesick founder Lee Smith, and also ’Bear’ Smith.
By the time the band performed at Belfast’s The Limelight in January 1994, Damian Darlington had come in to fill the gap. The audience for the band was beginning to grow – not just in the UK but also in Europe – but in September 94 came a show that changed everything. David Gilmour visited the band backstage after a show in Croydon – pointing out that he’d never had the chance to see Pink Floyd perform. He was very complimentary, posed for pictures and invited the band to perform at Pink Floyd’s party to mark the end of their ‘Division Bell’ tour. Due to curfew restraints at the venue, this plan fell through but, when the phone rang not long after, the band found themselves asked to perform a handpicked set at an event marking Gilmour’s 50th birthday.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show topped the bill at the evening’s festivities at the Fulham Town Hall, performing Pink Floyd to the members of Pink Floyd amongst others. Toward the end of the performance Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt joined the band on stage along with Rick Wright for a rendition of ‘Comfortably Numb’. This was followed by David Gilmour, Gary Wallis, Tim Renwick and Claudia Fontaine along with Guy and Rick, performing a number of edited versions of Floyd songs including ‘Money’ and ‘What Do You Want From Me’. It was an incredible ending to an unbelievable night.
Following that was always going to be hard, but it gave the band impetus to push forward even harder and deliver amazing shows for their fans. In 1997, the band performed a show at Battersea Power Station – the iconic building known to all Pink Floyd fans as the ‘Animals’ album cover, and the scene of the famous floating pig. The Australian Pink Floyd Show’s similar image of a floating kangaroo had been used to promote the band since the early days.
1998 saw the band perform at Glastonbury Festival. TAPFS were confident of drawing a good crowd but the fact that they had been added to the Acoustic stage – which had a roof – meant that there was standing room only in this year famous for rain and, of course, mud. The band will always treasure the memory of Rolf Harris, fellow Aussie, helping to push their truck out of the muck! This was the year too that founder member Grant Ross decided to return to Australia, as did Richard Guest. Though the losses would be keenly felt, the band regrouped and Salford lad Paul Bonney and his two drum kits were welcomed into the show.
The band’s touring schedule continued on an upward trajectory over the next three years with the band getting tighter and the venues getting bigger. In 2003, the band were faced with a choice: to keep doing the same as they had for the past 10 years, or to step up a gear. TAPFS made a big decision and embarked on their most ambitious period to date. 2003 was the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s landmark album ‘The Darkside of the Moon’; there was no better time for TAPFS to perform this album in its entirety. Backing vocalists and saxophone were added to the line up and new improved animations were produced by American animator, Bryan Kolupski for the new circular screen. The band toured ‘TDSOTM’ throughout 2003 and into 2004, taking the whole show to North America for their first full tour, and continuing in Europe. Everywhere the band played they received incredible reviews and it seemed the world had now fully embraced TAPFS. The tour continued well into the next year and a DVD of the show was recorded in Liverpool at the ‘Summer Pop’s show.
The 30th anniversary of the legendary ‘Wish You Were Here’ album fell in 2005 and was marked by a slew of UK dates, a tour in South America and a show in Malta that drew 10,000 fans – including the Maltese Prime Minister – and was acclaimed as the nation’s largest ever paying concert crowd. The annual Liverpool ‘Summer Pops’ in July 2005 gave the opportunity for TAPFS to make another first. On July 15th the band performed and recorded ‘Wish You Were Here’ and, on the following night, performed ‘Animals’ in its entirety for the first time. The end of 2005 saw TAPFS back in North America for a 35 date tour.
The 2011 dates saw the debut of an unbelievable 3D element created by a respected Hollywood animator. The next incarnation of the live show will take another route, watch this space!
Continuing to wow the crowds globally, TAPFS have constantly striven to seek out new audiences and turn in jaw-dropping performances to reconnect people with the music that they love. This year, Prog magazine raved, “For the record, TAPFS are a phenomenon to be witnessed live… It’s almost enough to make you forget you haven’t been watching Pink Floyd, but a surrogate band”.
In 2008 the band celebrated its twentieth year but the shows keep rolling and the band keep doing what they love. So now the story is bang up to date. 2012 is another year of innovation, hard work, great crowds and great music – the huge “Exposed In The Light” UK tour is going to be amazing. It is still all about the music – Pink Floyd – and delivering the absolute best performance each and every night.
No one is a fan yet, be the first!